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Online minor marketing law marked web's 'worst'

Dubious legislative process

A US law stopping online firms selling to minors has made number-one in a top-ten list of "the worst internet laws in America".

The law in question is 10 MRSA c.1055 and was passed by the Maine legislature at the end of its session this June. This local legislation has gone to the top of a debut list of the web's worst compiled by a group representing trade associations, eCommerce businesses and online consumers called NetChoice.

The group's list goes by the awful acronym of iAWFUL - Internet Advocates' Watchlist for Ugly Laws. It's designed to track "dangerous legislation and mobilize citizens to defeat bills and proposals that threaten the future of ecommerce and online communication."

10 MRSA c.1055 makes it illegal for any company to "knowingly collect or receive health-related information or personal information for marketing purposes from a minor without first obtaining verifiable parental consent of that minor's parent or legal guardian."

"Verfiable parental consent" is defined as "any reasonable effort, taking into consideration available technology... to ensure that a parent of a minor receives notice of the collection of personal information."

The law also makes it illegal for any company to use any and all of a minor's personal information for marketing purposes, whether that information was gathered with parental consent or not.

In NetChoice's opinion, that prohibition is far too broad, as it would prevent companies from offering such reasonable services as "college information, test prep services, and class rings."

A full list of NetChoice's top-ten iAWFUL laws can be found here. ®

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